After 13 years at the helm of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA),Suresh Kalmadi,lost the bodys presidential elections on Monday. Brigadier General Dahlan Jumaan Al Hamad,senior vice-president of the AAA and a vice-president of the IAAF,was elected the new president of the Asian body.
Kalmadi,who has served as the president of the AAA since 2000,lost the election by a close 18-20 margin to the 56-year-old sports administrator from Qatar. A total of 45 votes were casted during the election,seven votes were termed invalid and that,insiders say,was the turning point.
The legal officer,while laying out the rules,said that voters should place either tick or cross marks across the name of the candidate. That was a mistake as it caused a lot of confusion as seven voters placed both ticks and crosses on their paper,which ensured that their votes were invalid, said an official who was present at the meeting.
The elections,which began at 10.30 and Al Hamad came out for a press-briefing at 12.15 to announce his victory. There were reports that the Kalmadi camp demanded a recount due to the presence of the seven invalid votes in the close result. However,Lalit Bhanot,former secretary of Athletics Federation of India,who attended the meeting said that the election result had been accepted by the Kalmadi camp and that fair electoral practices were followed.
Al Hamad said that the election had been absolutely fair and that the seven invalid votes were an occurrence that could not be avoided. The election was carried out in a very transparent manner. People who voted have looked at the work done by both candidates and then selected the deserving candidate, he said.
Al Hamad also said that one of his biggest priorities was to find sponsors for the AAA and consequently Asian athletes. The IAAF has a number of Asian sponsors but that is not the case with the AAA. We have to present a finished product that is viable for sponsors and that is one of my main objectives, he said.
President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Lamine Diack,who was present at the AAA congress,said that Kalmadi had been busy with too many political commitments and was not able to devote enough time to the organisation.
Many a time,Kalmadi has excused himself from council meetings,stating duties as a Member of Parliament or because the parliament has been in session, he said. Diack also added that Kalmadi had done everything he could for Asian athletics and now it was Al Hamads turn to take the organization forward.